GCSE Music: Something's Coming (West side story)

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Something's Coming' - West Side Story
West Side Story is an American musical and was completed in 1957. The music is by
Leonard Bernstein and the words are by Stephen Sondheim. It is a jazzy musical
based on Shakespeare's story of Romeo and Juliet but set in 20th-century New York
against a background of racial gang warfare.
There are two rival gangs - the Sharks who are originally from Puerto Rico and the Jets
who were born in New York. Tony (tenor) and Maria (soprano) meet at a dance and fall
in love but have allegiances with opposing gangs. Both acts end with a murder.
The musical was groundbreaking because of its tragic tone, sophisticated musical style
and innovative extended dance sequences which are integral to the show. The music has
elements of opera, musical, jazz and Latin-American dance music. 'Something's Coming' is
one of the well-known songs from West Side Story. Others include 'Somewhere', 'Maria'
and 'Tonight'.
The first production was on Broadway. In 1961 it was made into a successful film and
since then has been performed many times by theatre, opera companies and
schools. Leonard Bernstein had a successful career as both a composer and conductor.
His best-known works include Chichester Psalms and Candide. Stephen Sondheim went on
to write innovative musicals of his own including Company and Sweeney Todd.
The song opens and closes in D major (a key signature of two sharps). It
modulates (changes key) to C major for two contrasting sections of the song.
The interval of a tritone is central to the West Side Story score - it helps to hold the
work together, linking various musical themes and acting as a symbol of tragedy.
A tritone:
Is an interval of three tones which has a dissonant unsettled feel as though it needs to
Is often associated with evil and is sometimes known as the Devil's Interval
Was used by Jimi Hendrix in the opening of 'Purple Haze'
There are a large number of instruments in the West Side Story orchestra with particularly
large woodwind, brass and percussion sections.
As is common in theatre pit orchestras (or bands), the players in these sections often
play more than one instrument. This is known as doubling.
'Something's Coming' is taken from Act I and is Tony's first solo. At this point he has not
met Maria. He has become disillusioned with gang warfare and looks forward to a better
future. He wants to leave the Jets but agrees to join them to go to a dance later that

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'Something's Coming' does not follow a standard song structure such as verse and chorus.
Instead it is held together by three ideas or themes which are heard throughout the song
and presented in different ways.
The song opens with a syncopated (using offbeat accents) accompaniment figure in 3/4
time. A similar repeated pattern is heard throughout. This is known as a riff. The pitches
change to fit the harmony.…read more


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